Ever feel like you're just a cog in the corporate machine? You're not alone. Welcome to the gig economy, where the traditional employment treadmill is getting a serious facelift.
Virtual Assistants (VAs) and freelancers in other areas are at the forefront of this revolution.
If you’ve ever wanted to trade in your cubicle for a home office or you work boats for a laptop, putting together your toolkit of skills for a virtual assistant might be what you need.
Depending on your current job, it may take some upskilling, but the ROI is priceless. The more virtual assistant skills you possess, the better.
For you, it's freedom and flexibility. And for clients and employers, it's about getting brilliant skills without the traditional overhead. Win-win, I think they call it.😉
Virtual Assistant Skills: The Basics
So, what's in your virtual assistant toolkit?
You might think it's all about being a jack-of-all-trades, and if you are, it certainly doesn’t hurt. But there’s more.
It's not just about mastering Excel spreadsheets or managing social media accounts. It's also about the soft skills that often get overlooked. The ones that might not be listed in a job description but make all the difference.
Or, if they are listed in a job description, it’s just for show. There’s no actual way to measure or verify them until after you’ve been hired and are given the chance to prove yourself.
Skills like communication, adaptability, and a dash of empathy.
These are more than just fluff and words, “yeah-yeah, I’m adaptable, blah-blah”. They're the glue that holds your virtual work life together.
And of course, the hard skills matter too, and we’ll cover both below…
In-Demand Virtual Assistant Skills
While there are an endless number of skills that will help you succeed, we’ll start with the most in-demand and, for most clients, the top 3 virtual assistant skills.
1. Word Processing Proficiency
No matter what you specialize in, you’re almost guaranteed to open up MS Word or Google Docs for something.
And you’ll want to speed up your workflow any way you can. For example, keyboard shortcuts are like the fast lanes on a highway. And once you know them, you wonder how you ever lived without them.
Here are five that I can’t live without and are pretty much universal in all word processors (and operating systems)…
- Ctrl + C (Cmd + C on Mac): Copy selected text. It's like having a photocopier at your fingertips.
- Ctrl + V (Cmd + V on Mac): Paste copied text. Think of it as the other half of the photocopier, laying down the ink where you need it.
- Ctrl + X (Cmd + X on Mac): Cut selected text like a pair of digital scissors, snipping out what you don't need.
- Ctrl + Z (Cmd + Z on Mac): Undo the last action. I use this one more than I should, lol. It’s like a time machine, allowing you to jump back to that critical moment. Now that I think of it, wouldn't it be nice to have a Ctrl + Z for life?
- Ctrl + F (Cmd + F on Mac): This is for finding specific text on a page. It's a searchlight in a dark room or one of those magnetic metal detectors on a beach.
And let’s not forget about document formatting.
If you’re not familiar with the most common formatting tools, it’s well worth it to follow a few tutorials. I struggled for years with simple tasks until I one day realized I could solve them with something as easy as a tap of the Tab Key or paying attention to the proper Paste Options.
You may be an MS Word Wizard and know all of this stuff already, but I was just too stubborn and unwilling to take just a few minutes to learn. Now I’m always on the hunt for efficiencies.
2. Communication Skills
Have you ever listened to someone but not really heard them? Active listening is the game-changer here, and it's the difference between just nodding along and actually getting the job done right.
And it doesn’t hurt with your friends and family either. As an expert head nodder, my wife can testify to that.
Of course, it’s not just listening. Your words, written or spoken, are your currency in the virtual world, so continuously sharpening your communication skills should always be an easy reach in your bag of virtual assistant tips and tricks.
3. Computer Literacy
For a virtual assistant, your computer is a Swiss Army knife. It has a tool for every situation if you know where to find it.
From mastering your operating system to basic troubleshooting, it's all about being resourceful. The answers are out there in the digital wilderness. You just have to know how to hunt them down.
Administrative Virtual Assistant Skills
Moving on, we have some administrative skills that are crucial to a VA’s repertoire. I’ll start with one that’s often overlooked, creativity.
Who says admin tasks are just about ticking boxes? Creativity is your secret weapon.
This isn’t about art, music, writing, or any of those other fun things when you think of creativity. It’s about coming up with effective solutions to unique problems.
Think of brainstorming as your mental gym, where techniques like Mind Mapping, Affinity Diagrams, and Nominal Group techniques are your workout routines.
Wait, mind mapping, affinity diagrams, and nominal group???
I hear you…
- Mind Mapping – This is a way to visually organize your thoughts or ideas. You start with a central concept in the middle of a page, and then you draw branches that represent related ideas, tasks, or subtopics. It's basically brainstorming on paper (or at least, you computer screen). And it helps you see connections you might not have otherwise noticed.
- Affinity Diagrams – This is a method to sort a large number of ideas into naturally occurring groups. You jot down all your thoughts on sticky notes, and then you arrange them on a wall or table. The goal is to group similar ideas together, making it easier to analyze and act upon them.
- Nominal Group Technique – This is a structured method for group brainstorming that encourages contributions from everyone. Each person silently generates ideas and writes them down. Then, each idea is discussed and prioritized by the group. It's a democratic way to ensure that everyone's voice is heard.
Even in the most mundane tasks, a sprinkle of creativity can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
5. Data Entry
No list of skills for virtual assistants is complete without mentioning data entry.
This isn't just punching numbers and letters. It's about accuracy.
I have an interesting story about this. Well… it’s interesting to me, I suppose.
My wife used to be my employee (that’s how we met… many, many years ago). And every week, I’d do cycle counts of our inventory which had to be entered into our company ERP software. It was tedious and time-consuming.
For whatever reason, I was rushing to get something else done and asked my then-employee (and only my employee at the time) if she could do it for me.
I learned that day that I’m terrible at data entry and that my wife is a wizard at it. Not only did she get it done in less than half the time it took me, but she did it without a single error.
This ultimately saved me hours because every time I made an error (which happened often enough), it took me hours to investigate and balance our inventory on the next cycle count for that particular group of products.
So… accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. It can’t be said enough, and your client will probably agree.
Ever heard of the Kanban system or the SCAMPER Method?
These are like having your own personal organization guru like Marie Kondo. Well, maybe not exactly like that, but they will lift a big weight off your shoulders.
So, what are these systems and methods about?
- Kanban System – Imagine your tasks as a series of cards moving across a board. Each column on the board represents a stage of the process. It's like tracking your Amazon package but for work tasks. It helps you see where everything stands at a glance.
- SCAMPER Method – This is a checklist of triggers to help you think differently about whatever you're organizing. SCAMPER stands for Substitute – Combine – Adapt – Modify – Put To Another Use – Eliminate – Reverse. It's like shaking up a snow globe to see a familiar scene in a new light.
Finally (at least for the scope of this article), a clean workspace is the cherry on top.
7. Attention to Detail
Some of these skills, like this one, are obvious on paper. In fact, they are so obvious that some might not consider them skills.
But I say from experience and an overflowing barrel of frustration that attention to detail is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. At least for many people… myself included.
If you’re one of those rare individuals with a natural gift, I envy you.
For the rest of us… do you ever miss a typo and kick yourself later? Do you forget to double-check an email before hitting send, only to realize you've left out crucial information?
Yeah, been there, done that.
Attention to detail is like having a built-in spellchecker for “life stuff”. It's not just about catching typos. It's about noticing the little things that can make a big difference.
It's the difference between sending a “good” report and a “great” one, between a satisfied client and a thrilled one.
So, how do you cultivate this skill?
Checklists are a good start. They're like your GPS, ensuring you don't miss a turn or overlook a detail. Proofreading your own work is another. It's like having a second set of eyes, even if they're your own.
In a world where everyone is rushing to get things done, taking that extra minute to pay attention to the details sets you apart. It turns you from someone who just does their job to someone who excels at it.
8. Self-Motivation and Discipline
You're your own boss here, so at the risk of sounding crass…act like it. To be fair, this is exactly what I tell myself every day.
And I need to tell myself because it’s easy to forget.
And setting personal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is like having a fitness tracker for your work life.
You may find tools like the Pomodoro Technique to be like interval training for your brain, helping you sprint through tasks without burning out.
9. Time Management
Think of your day as a blank canvas, and how you fill it determines your masterpiece.
Prioritizing tasks is your sketch, deadlines are your frame, and techniques like Critical Path Analysis and the Eisenhower Matrix are your brushes and palette.
Time-blocking is another way to layering your colors, one at a time until the picture is complete.
To further expand on these…
- Critical Path Analysis – Picture your project as a puzzle. Each piece is a task, and some can't start until others are completed. Critical Path Analysis helps you identify the fastest route to complete the puzzle. It's like Google Maps for your project, showing you the quickest way from start to finish.
- Eisenhower Matrix – Imagine a grid. One axis is urgency, the other is importance. Every task you have should land somewhere on this grid. The Eisenhower Matrix helps you decide what to tackle first, what to schedule for later, what to delegate, and what to ditch. It's like having a personal assistant who sorts your to-do list into neat little boxes.
- Time-blocking – Think of your day as a series of blocks, like Lego pieces. Each block is dedicated to a specific task or group of tasks. Time-blocking helps you build your day, one focused chunk at a time. It's like meal prepping for your workday, ensuring you have the right ingredients for a productive day.
Whatever method you use, strategies to save time are like nuggets of gold. After all, time is money, right?
10. Integrity and Dependability
Like attention to detail, this should be another obvious one.
Is it a skill? Maybe not. However, it is a crucial quality to possess as a virtual assistant.
Handle confidential info like being a vault. When you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Success or failure here will lead to testimonials and/or references that will make or break you. Your word, security credentials, and reliability are the bedrock of your VA business.
Advanced Virtual Assistant Skills
11. Effective Decision Making
Decision-making is like navigating a maze, and success means finding the cheese.
You've got tools like SWOT analysis and Six Thinking Hats to guide you through the twists and turns. The 5 Whys are a flashlight, revealing the root cause lurking in the dark corners.
Chain of Thought Reasoning is your trail of breadcrumbs leading you to the right choice.
You may already know and use these decision-making strategies, but if not, here are some brief descriptions…
- SWOT Analysis – You may have seen the 2×2 SWOT Matrix before. It’s a four-sided quadrilateral, with each side representing one of four elements: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT Analysis is like taking a 360-degree view of your decision, helping you see it from all angles.
- Six Thinking Hats – Picture a meeting where everyone wears a different colored hat. Each color represents a way of thinking… facts, emotions, negatives, positives, creativity, and control. The Six Thinking Hats method lets you switch hats to explore a decision from multiple perspectives. It's like having a Swiss Army knife for problem-solving.
- The 5 Whys – Ever watch a toddler ask “why?” over and over? The 5 Whys technique is similar. You start with a problem and ask “why” until you drill down to the root cause. It's like peeling an onion, layer by layer until you get to the core.
- Chain of Thought Reasoning – Again, this method is like a breadcrumb trail for your thoughts. You start with a problem, then logically follow each step until you arrive at a solution. It's like solving a maze, one turn at a time, until you find your way out.
And don't underestimate the role of intuition in decision-making, telling your gut when you've hit a dead-end or found the way out.
12. Social Media Management
Social media is your stage, and you're the director. Knowing your platforms is like knowing your actors. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Content creation is your script, and brand voice is how you deliver your lines.
And no social media manager can be an expert with an understanding of analytics and how to respond to audience feedback, adapt, and recalibrate your strategies.
With social media management, there can be an element of crisis management depending on your client and their goals. Think of it as improv. You've gotta think on your feet and adapt.
13. Email Management
Ever feel overwhelmed by your inbox? Your client does too.
Enter the “Four Ds” strategy… Delete, Do, Delegate, and Defer (No… it’s NOT Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge for the Dodgeball Movie fans… although it sometimes feels like I need to Dodge my emails)
To reference another classic movie, it's like having a sorting hat for your emails, guiding each one to its rightful house.
And don’t forget about templates and AI tools. They can be your inbox's best friends, making email a breeze rather than a chore.
Actually, come to think of it, it’s always a chore.
Of course, there are many many more ways to uplevel your email game, which we go over in-depth in our virtual assistant email management strategies guide.
14. Lifelong Learning
Being a VA is not a one-and-done deal. It's a journey. This, again, isn’t necessarily a “skill” but rather a growth mindset that effective VAs must have.
The good news is that if you’re reading this and you want to be a virtual assistant (or already are), you probably already have a growth mindset.
Specialized Virtual Assistant Skills
15. Lead Conversion
Understanding your audience is like being a mind reader, sort of.
When I first started out online, coming from an extensive background in sales, I thought this was one of my strengths. I’d hear the words “know your audience” and think, yeah-yeah, I get it… I do know them.
But I couldn’t be more wrong.
To truly know your audience, you need to learn from them. Research what your ideal customers and clients are saying and doing on various platforms, such as Reddit, Facebook Groups, blog comments, etc.
What frustrates them the most about hiring VAs? Why do they need a VA?
Learn everything you can about their struggles, worries, and concerns, and solve their problems. Promise to solve them when applying to or reaching out to your clients. And then deliver on those promises.
And if you’re engaging customers, readers, followers, etc., for your client, the same rules apply.
If your job is to manage their social media accounts and build their audience, do all the research you can learn how their audience is.
Do A/B testing, also referred to as split testing, to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
This is done by offering two versions of something—a webpage, an email, you name it. You then track which version gets a better response. Then, drop the one that performs worse, and create a new iteration that tries to do better at achieving your objective.
Continuing with the process takes time but eventually results in higher converting and, hopefully, profitable campaigns.
16. Website Maintenance and Tech Support
You don't have to be a tech wizard, but you should be familiar with various platforms.
That is unless your main role is website maintenance and tech support.
Generally, your client will have someone to handle these things, but it doesn’t hurt to have a solid understanding yourself. You may even have your own professional website to promote your VA services.
Knowing how to do backups, troubleshoot problems, and customize your website will save you time and money. And having some technical chops will also pay dividends when it comes to working with frustrating software or an operating system that’s glitching… as they sometimes do.
17. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the compass that directs traffic to your site. Keywords are your landmarks, and SERP research is your map, helping you craft content that not just ranks but deserves to.
You may need a good understanding of SEO if you’re creating content for your clients. And this goes for video content as well since YouTube is also considered a search engine.
With a basic understanding of on-page and off-page SEO and things like SERP research, you’ll have an advantage over other VAs who don’t.
SERP research, you say? What’s that?
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. You study what already ranks to understand what Google thinks is relevant to the keywords you want to rank for. It's like scouting the competition before the big game.
18. Project Management
Agile methodology is your game plan, and risk assessment is your playbook.
Of course, you may not be a project manager for your client. But an understanding of project management will help you slide into a project member role effortlessly and begin contributing much sooner than someone who doesn’t have any experience with it.
You may also be able to contribute by rooting out problems and bottlenecks, making you an invaluable member.
19. Sales Skills
Here's the deal… sales are not just that annoying, and sometimes sketchy, department that seems far removed from all the other company departments.
Although coming from a sales background, those descriptions are not entirely unwarranted.
But the reality is that sales is the engine that keeps the whole machine running. Imagine a car. You've got the wheels, the seats, the steering wheel, but without an engine… you're not going anywhere.
Of course, everyone has to work together, and every role is important. But the one that brings in the dough is the one everyone is working for.
In any organization, every role, every task, every meeting, and every project is a cog in this engine.
Whether you're in customer service, tech support, or even the mailroom, you're contributing to that ultimate goal… selling something.
Because sales equal revenue, and revenue is what keeps the lights on, pays the salaries, and fuels growth.
20. Remote Team Collaboration
This may not seem like a skill, but it is. Virtual meetings have their own etiquette, like a digital dance.
Not to mention, combatting remote work isolation and mastering collaboration tools, digital communication, and keeping you in sync with your team is not only something your client wants, they will expect it.
Frequently Asked VA Questions
How Do I Get Started As a Virtual Assistant?
Diving into the VA world is like taking the first step on a hiking trail. You start by assessing your current skills and then map out the ones you need to develop.
Next, you dip your toes in the water. Start with freelance gigs, part-time roles, or whatever gets you experience. Before you know it, you're not just walking the trail, you're blazing it.
But be patient, give yourself room to learn, and check out our guide to becoming a virtual assistant.
Do I Need Certifications to Be a Virtual Assistant?
Certifications will help. Having them makes your VA journey smoother and opens up new paths. But they are not mandatory.
They are, however, a stamp of quality, a way to stand out in a crowded and competitive field. If you have them or can get them, you will be several steps further up the virtual assistant ladder.
Where Do You Go From Here?
There’s no question that skill matters. And if your objective is to make money from home, full-time or part-time, it’s hard to go wrong by acquiring more skills. And the right skills for the jobs you want to do.
More than checkboxes on a job description and resume, skills are your building blocks of a fulfilling career. And it’s not the job or the client that makes you money… it’s the skill.